6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks

How to survive on one supermarket trip per week, spend less and waste less
6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks - Halloumi Hash - The Cardiff Cwtch

If you’re going to pick one thing out of the Coronavirus Pandemic that’s affecting all of us in some way, it’s got to be food. The way we shop for, cook and eat food has completely changed in the past month; we’re not eating out anymore since all our favourite restaurants and cafes have either closed or shifted to delivery only, we’re all heading to the supermarket far less (or maybe even not at all), and we’re cooking from scratch more than ever before. We’re also wasting a lot more food. After all the panic buying a couple of weeks ago – as people rushed to stock their fridges and kitchen cupboards ahead of lockdown – local councils and collection crews have seen up to a 30% increase in food waste (everything, from unopened packs of chicken to bread and speckled bananas). That’s bonkers! Especially considering a lot of us are still struggling to get basic items like eggs, flour and pasta in our local supermarkets.

While most of us are familiar with the process of a weekly shop – we’re probably not used to not being able to “pop back” to the supermarket for a couple of extras or fresh items that we’ve forgotten… or a pack of jam doughnuts on a whim (*sigh* the struggle is real). Lockdown food shopping and cooking for many of us (including all the extra food needed for working from home lunches) is a tricky thing to get your head around – and if you’ve never tried it before, then I really can’t recommend Meal Planning enough.

I started Meal Planning myself a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised how much money I was spending on food every week, and how much of that food I was throwing out. I was Queen of the Soggy Cucumbers and half-eaten Sour Cream; I’d head to the supermarket three times a week without a plan and then I’d usually come home with stuff that I already had in the fridge anyway. Enough was enough; I was sick of coming up with meals last minute, I was sick of living in the supermarket and I was sick of throwing out food (quite literally once or twice – rotten potatoes are seriously janky, yo). So I started meal planning and it’s honestly been a game changer – I’m spending far less time and money in the supermarket (I go once a week and spend roughly the same amount every time), and I’m wasting far less food because every item is planned out. It’s a system that works for me every week of the year, but it’s suited even better to Lockdown conditions when you’re only supposed to head to the supermarket once a week. If you’ve planned exactly what you’re going to eat every day of the week ahead, it means a quick and seamless supermarket trip, fuss free meal times and zero food waste.

If you want to give it a go yourself then I wrote a whole post about How to Start Meal Planning, but for Six Lockdown Meal Planning Tips to get you started, just hit scroll. πŸ™‚

6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks - How to spend less, cook more and waste less food - The Cardiff Cwtch

Write a Supermarket-Friendly List

Right now I’m shopping for two households, which has the potential to make for very long, very painful supermarket sessions. To make the process as quick and as painless as possible I have to pretty much attack it like a full on military operation – and writing a Supermarket Friendly Shopping List is top of the game plan. I want to be able to breeze through the supermarket, hitting all the aisles individually – and only once.

  • Target Use by Date: When I sit down to write my weekly shopping list, the very first thing I write right at the top – before I even get to adding milk or eggs – is what the date is going to be in seven days time. I want to be able to hunt out the best possible use by date on the products I add to my trolley to make sure nothing goes off during the week ahead – meaning no desperate follow-up dashes to the supermarket, and no wasted food.
  • Location List: Have you ever shopped at an unfamiliar supermarket and had a meltdown in one of the aisles because, “Argh! Everything’s in a different place!!!”? Yeah, same. You probably know your usual supermarket like the back of your hand – you’ll know exactly where to find everything, from cheese to ground cinnamon – as well as how you usually move from aisle to aisle. So write a list with that in mind! I write mine in the order I shop – that way I don’t have to ping pong back and forth from aisle to aisle.

Double-up to Leave Plenty of Leftovers for Lunches

The current lock-down situation is made for those who cook from scratch. If that’s you, then you’ve probably got an arsenal of home cooked recipes up your sleeve and are well-rehearsed in double-ing up meals to serve you for leftovers and lunches throughout the week. Slipping in some easy, from scratch meals into your weekly meal plan is the way to go, now more than ever. For a start, it’s cheaper, and often healthier – but also, now that we’re all working from home we’re hitting up the home fridge at lunch time as well as dinner time, so having some leftovers going spare goes a long way. Chilli, Pasta and Curry all make for brilliant leftovers – especially vegetarian versions – and some favourite “double-up” recipes in my personal arsenal include:

Support Your Local Cafes and Restaurants by Ordering In

Before Coronavirus there were some weeks where I’d factor in a night for a Takeaway or a Meal Out. Obviously a trip to my local pub for a curry (I LOVE a pub curry, mate) or to a restaurant in town is now off limits for the forseeable – but a takeaway is still most definitely an option. Lots of our much loved local businesses are still slogging on through these strange times by offering delivery options – so why not support them, give yourself the night off from cooking and order something in?

(*If you live in Cardiff then this brilliant website has up to date information on local restaurants and businesses that are currently delivering food in and around the city.)

Factor in a “Dog’s Dinner” Dish for Day Seven

Dog’s Dinner, Hodge Podge, whatever you like to call it – everyone’s got a recipe for using up any leftover veg and meat hanging around in their fridge. I like to factor one in to my weekly meal plan for day seven (the day before I start over and head to the supermarket again), just to clear out my fridge and cut down on food waste. I’ve usually got at least a pepper, some mushrooms, tomatoes and some salad leaves left – and so my absolute favourite Dog’s Dinner dish to use them all up is Halloumi Hash. Halloumi freezes really well (and thaws out quickly) so I’ve always got a handful of blocks at the bottom of the freezer – and then I just fry it up with some potatoes (even better if I’ve got a few left over from a roast), leftover veg, paprika and olive oil. To finish it off, I top it with either a fried or a poached egg. Yum!

Use Leftover Roast Meat Strategically

If you’re a big fan of a good old fashioned roast dinner – or just roasted meat in general – then start working it into your weekly meal plan to save from buying extra meat and to give your midweek meals an easy glow-up. Roasted meats can be reheated safely once (some say twice, but after having severe food poisoning once myself I’d personally rather not risk it!) within three days of first cooking them. I like to use leftover roast chicken to make curries and jazz up stir fries and noodle dishes, and leftover pork roast is absolutely perfect to throw into Ramen and Pho.

Keep your Pantry and Freezer Stocked with Versatile Ingredients

Obviously don’t start panic-buying an apocalypse-ready trolley-full of tins and freezer food (most supermarkets are restricting shoppers to three items per person now anyway) – but strategically picking up some long-lasting food items and ingredients that can be used to create easy meals from scratch makes weekly meals so much easier – even out of a lockdown situation. I’m really lucky, I’ve got a makeshift pantry of shelves out in the garage where I store up tins of beans, chick peas, tinned tomatoes, chutneys, rice and pasta – all items that can be used to make a quick meal in a pinch. I also keep my freezer stocked with chicken dippers (try my Cheat’s Mango Chicken, and my Honey Sesame Chicken – both made using chicken dippers!), Halloumi (great in stir fries and curries instead of meat), as well as lots of frozen vegetables and herbs. My kitchen cupboards are also stocked up with spices, sauces and meal kits (I LOVE the Blue Dragon ones) – so if I can’t make it to the supermarket for my weekly shop and have to hang on a few more days – then I’ve got plenty to make something out of nothing.

Let me know your favourite Dog’s Dinner/Hodge Podge recipes below – I could use a few new ones to try! Have a great week! ❀︎

5 Easy Boredom-Busting Banana Bakes

for when you’ve got a couple of spotty bananas hanging around…

Is it me or has the internet gone banana mad recently? With everyone either in self-isolation or working from home, it seems that we’ve all got a bit more time to boredom bake (and clearly, even when you’re home 24/7, that perfect banana window before they turn spotty is still really easy to miss…). Banana Bread’s always high up on the list for me when I’m feeling a bit bored and fancy baking something, but don’t want to put in a lot of effort (or ingredients) – it’s an easy, crowd pleasing lump of lush, innit? And it’s the perfect kitchen worktop snack for when you drag your butt away from the computer and head off in search of a mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack to go with your tea or coffee (for those who’ve never worked from home before, the 11am/3pm munchies are real and cannot be ignored). But it gets a bit boring baking the same old loaf over and over again, doesn’t it? At some point, you’ve got to mix things up or go banana bread bonkers. So I’ve scrolled the Cwtch archives and found five Banana-themed recipes that are just as easy, just as satisfying and just as boredom-busting as ye olde bog-standard Banana Bread.

Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Sweet, sticky and perfect served warm with ice cream, this Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake has a moist, cinnamon-spiced sponge and comes topped with caramel soaked sliced bananas. Baked upside down, just make sure you leave it in the tin to cool completely before flipping it upright. πŸ™‚

Banana and Custard-filled Pancakes

A bowl of bananas and custard was one of my absolute favourite desserts as a kid, and I still get just excited today when I find myself with a can of custard and a couple of bananas going spare. It’s one of those stupidly simple yet completely satisfying desserts, innit?Β  Easy.Β  Awesome.Β  And then I had the crazy idea of adding pancakes into the mix. These Banana and Custard-filled Pancakes are easy to make – fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a molten custard middle, topped with fresh, sliced bananas – just freeze some blobs of custard before cooking up the pancakes. Yum!

Banana Crumble Cake

If you’re still in the mood to make Banana Bread but fancy mixing things up just a little, then you can’t go wrong with this recipe for Banana Crumble Cake. Fluffy cake, crunchy walnut crumble topping and a sweet and stickyΒ  cinnamon drizzle.Β  Banging!

Banana and Chocolate Traybake

There is absolutely nothing fancy about thisΒ Chocolate and Banana Traybake. The ingredients are minimal, there are no special moves involved, and you can whip it up in under thirty minutes. It’s also easily adaptable; so if you fancy throwing in a blob of peanut butter, or some walnuts, or adding a sticky caramel layerΒ (see myΒ Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake) – then go for it!

Banana Bread Icecream

Thank God the weather’s been on side recently for our daily Government-approved walks and exercise – right? It’s been dry, it’s been sunny, and I even walked Bungle without carting around my heavy winter coat yesterday. Rejoice! Time to celebrate with some Banana Bread Ice-cream. If you’ve never made it before then you might be surprised how easy it is to make – you don’t even need a machine, just a blender, a bowl and a freezable container.

Have a lovely Easter Weekend! 🍌🍌🍌🍌🍌

Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake

Happy Easter!
Easy Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Bloggers

Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler and Rachel steal and scoff a doorstep cheesecake from one of their neighbours? It’s one of my favourite episodes, firstly because it’s the season where Jen got the chop and her hair all season is PERFECT (…when wasn’t it? Also, as soon as the lockdown gets lifted, the first thing I’m doing is hightailing it straight to the hairdresser’s…), but also because – ugh, didn’t that cheesecake look just as perfect? I’d never been a cheesecake fan, but I was determined to give it another go after watching that episode. Still, every one I tried just didn’t leave me bowled over and filling to scrape it off the floor with a fork if it fell off the plate. And then I worked it out; all that time I’d been trying chilled, no-bake cheesecakes, whereas the heavenly-looking one in that episode of Friends was one of the baked variety – The Classic New York Cheesecake – which has a completely different taste and texture.

It’s also – apparently – much more difficult to make. There are literally thousands of “no bake” cheesecake recipes out there – all blasting how easy they are compared to the baked version. To that I say, bollocks; they’re not that difficult at all – they just take a little bit more time before you can stick your fork in there. I think they’re worth the wait; especially if they’re crammed full of cream eggs… just sayin’.

My husband went to Costco to pick up a few “lockdown essentials” a couple of weeks ago (we usually buy a lot of our tins and freezer stuff there in bulk anyway), and as well as bagging the last pack of eggs (they’re almost impossible to find here at the moment), he came home with a massive box of cream eggs – which I love, although a box of thirty is perhaps pushing it just a little. I knew a good handful were going to have to be used for baking – especially since Easter is just around the corner (check out the Cream Egg Doughnuts I made last year πŸ˜‰ ). This Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake has a soft and crumbly Bourbon Biscuit base (no digestive biscuit bricks here – bleugh!), a light and creamy filling (that sets with a slight wobble), and is crammed full of cream eggs. It’s easy to make and easily adapted, so if cream eggs aren’t your jam swap them out with something else. πŸ™‚

Easy Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Easter Recipes - Welsh Food Bloggers

Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake

Ingredients
  • 200g Bourbon Biscuits
  • 360g Full Fat Cream Cheese
  • 70g Cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Packet of Mini Cream Eggs
  • 2 Cream Eggs
Easy Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake - The Cardiff Cwtch - New York Cheesecake - Foolproof
Method
  1. First things first, whack your oven on and set it to 180Β°C. Break your biscuits up into smaller chunks, then blitz them in a food processor until you get a fine, sand-like crumb.
  2. Pour the blitzed biscuits into the bottom of a 20cm loose-bottomed baking tin. Lightly press down to create a smooth base – but don’t pack them too tightly otherwise your base will come out of the oven like a brick and will be too hard to cut. 😦
  3. Next, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese, yoghurt, caster sugar and eggs – mixing until you get a smooth and airy mixture. Roughly chop the mini cream eggs and stir them into the cheesecake mixture.
  4. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the cake tin over the top of the biscuit base.
  5. Slice the other cream eggs and scatter them over the top.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes. Leaving the cheesecake inside, turn off the oven and open the door slightly – allowing the cheesecake to slowly cool (this should stop it from cracking).
  7. Once the cheesecake has reached room temperature, pop it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. Bring it out about half an hour before you fancy scoffing a slice! πŸ™‚

Have a great week everyone (Happy Easter for the weekend ahead!). πŸ’›

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto

Lockdown Lunches = SORTED
Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches

What are you eating for lunch these days – now that popping out of the office for a Pret baguette or a cheeky Nandos is off the cards? Are you skipping off to the kitchen and raiding the cupboards excited to get cooking, or dragging your ass from your sofa office despairing over the fact that you’ve actually got to make something to eat and “Oh my God, I can’t be arsed, but I can’t have beans on toast for the third day in a row…”? (I mean, if you can even get your hands on a tin of beans because when I was in Tesco last Tuesday the only tins I could get my hands on were reduced salt and sugar spaghetti hoops, and I don’t think I’ve reached those levels of desperation just yet…).

I’ve been in the swing of working at home and sorting myself out for lunch for a few years now, and even though I sometimes go a bit green when my husband comes home and lightly informs me that he walked to Cardiff Market and got takeaway Thai Food for lunch – I actually really enjoy lunchtimes at home. I always work best when I stick to a routine – and stopping to have lunch is massive part of that routine, breaking up my morning session and afternoon one. But it can take a bit of time to go from “What am I going to eat that doesn’t involve toast?” to simulating the all choices you’d normally get heading out of the office to your favourite coffee shop relying on just your own kitchen cupboards and fridge freezer.

Obviously I have days where spaghetti hoops on toast for lunch is literally heaven, but because I Meal Plan (which I’d totally recommend now more than ever since we’re all ideally restricting how often we pop to the supermarket), I tend to factor in a few dinners each week that’ll supply me with some leftovers for lunch. I make Halloumi Hash from any potatoes and vegetables I’ve got leftover from roast dinners, a dollop of my Ultimate Veggie Chilli can be eaten on toast with some fresh avocado, and you just can’t go wrong with leftover veggie pastas and risottos that can be nuked in the microwave and brought back to life with some fresh leaves (…and PLENTY of cheese).

I’ve had trouble making risotto in the past (they’re either too gloopy or not creamy enough), but I think I’ve cracked it with this very Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto. Bulk it out with leftover veg if you’ve got any, and then enjoy it all week. It’s also easy to bring back that fresh, creamy texture once you’ve microwaved by stirring in a little bit of butter (or cream, if you’ve got it). πŸ™‚

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches - Lunchtime Recipes

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto

serves 2
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 250g mushrooms (use whichever type you fancy)
  • 1l chicken stock (switch to vegetable stock if you want to make the risotto 100% veggie)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a tin of butter beans
  • handful of spinach leaves
  • 300g arborio rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 50ml single cream
  • lots of parmesan to serve
  • salt and pepper to season
Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches - Meal Planning
Method
  1. First up, pour the oil into a deep frying pan and warm on a medium high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and sliced leek, and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Slice up your mushrooms, then throw them incooking until they’re nice and soft. Add the butter beans and spinach.
  2. Add the risotto rice and stir it around the pan for a couple of minutes – ensuring every grain becomes coated in the oil and appears slightly translucent. Pour in the wine and leave the rice to soak it up.
  3. Next, turn down the heat to a simmer and gradually add the stock – a small amount at a time, stirring frequently until the rice drinks it up. Keep going until all the stock has been added, and the rice is soft and creamy.
  4. Finally, stir in the cream, season and serve with plenty of grated parmesan cheese. πŸ™‚

Have a lovely week! Let me know what your favourite working from home lunchtime meal is below! πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡

Chocolate and Banana Traybake

Self-Isolation Snack Game: STRONG
Easy Chocolate and Banana Traybake - The Cardiff Cwtch

So, hands up if you’ve spent a good deal of your self isolation so far stress baking. Yup, I can’t seem to stay out of the kitchen. Aside from needing far more snacks than usual to bring to the office (upstairs – what a commute) to feed my coworkers (…my husband and Bungle…), at this point I’ll do pretty much anything to keep my mind off the news for ten minutes. Baking’s always been one of my favourite ways to fill a bit of free time (…and if you come out of it with something delicious to fill your stomach with then even better!) and to be honest, if doing more of that means that I emerge from self-isolation in a few months happy and healthy, then I’ll take that as a win… even if it means my jeans start feeling a bit snug.

There is absolutely nothing fancy about this Chocolate and Banana Traybake. The ingredients are minimal (you probably won’t even need to go shopping to make it), there are no special moves involved, and you can whip it up in under thirty minutes (perfect if you fancy baking a little something during your lunch break). It’s also easily adaptable; so if you fancy throwing in a blob of peanut butter, or some walnuts, or adding a sticky caramel layer (see my Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake) – then go for it!

Easy Chocolate and Banana Traybake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Home and Lifestyle Bloggers

Chocolate and Banana Traybake

Ingredients
  • 150g butter
  • 150g milk dark chocolate (plus extra to decorate)
  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 bananas

 

…That’s it! Feel free to mix things up and add some walnuts, chocolate chunks or peanut butter into the mix. πŸ™‚

Easy Chocolate and Banana Traybake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Food Bloggers
Method
  1. First things first, set your oven to 180Β°C and line a deep, rectangular cake tin. (TIP: If you always struggle to get your baking paper to sit flat in the tin, rinse your baking paper under tap water for a couple of minutes until it becomes soft and pliable πŸ˜‰ )
  2. To make the batter, pop the butter and chocolate in a bowl and melt them together in the microwave for about a minute. Set the bowl aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and eggs. Take one of the bananas and mash it, and then add it to the mix.
  4. Next, pour in the chocolate and butter mix, followed by the flour and baking powder. Stir to combine, but don’t over mix the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake tin. Slice the two remaining bananas length-ways and arrange them on top.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, then leave it to cool before decorating with chocolate and then slicing into squares to scoff. πŸ™‚
Easy Chocolate and Banana Traybake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Baking Bloggers

Have a lovely weekend everyone! Stay indoors! πŸ™‚